I was practically sobbing last summer as I scrubbed away eleven years worth of smudges and fingerprints on the walls of a hallway leading down to my basement. Not because I don’t especially enjoy housework, or because it's hard getting a house ready to sell when you've lived in it for a long time with a rather slovenly family, or because the prospect of finding a new house to buy was stressful, although all those things are true. My face was wet with tears because a character I’d come to love in my audio book had met a terribly sad end. When my husband, who was doing some other chore, passed by on his way to the basement and gave me a quizzical look, I flopped back my hair to show him my headphones, and he nodded.
I'm too busy-- just like everyone else in the 21st Century, right?--but I have to have books in my life, not only because they matter to me, but because staying on top of what’s happening in the world of books is part of my job. Audio books have been my secret weapon. I can read on the way to Trader Joe's, while I make fish tacos for dinner, while I get the exercise that is so important to my mood, while I clean up the clutter in my house.
I resisted audio books for awhile. The experience is, admittedly, different from reading a “real” book. And I tend to try to save things that are deeper or more complex for reading on an actual printed page. But some books are actually better in audio. I always feel a little sad for people who are checking out David Sedaris' printed books at the library, because I love them so much in Sedaris’s very unique voice. And listening to Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman is an absolutely lovely experience. Her current English accent is very pleasant to listen to, but sometimes in the course of the story, she uses the accent she had in her working class, Northern English childhood, which is hilarious. Libba Bray’s The Diviners is set in 1920s New York City, and the voice actor does an astonishing job with a wide variety of characters. There's a showgirl who sounds a lot like Mae West, and the main character sounds a little like Gracie Allen. The reader's narration brings an already wonderful book to life and makes it even better. And did you know that there’s an audio book of Graham Greene’s romantic, moody novel, The End of the Affair that is read by Colin Firth? Come on. Colin Firth speaking right into your ears. This could make even cleaning out the cat box a transcendent experience. If you enjoy audio books and want ideas for a new one to listen to, take a look at some lists I made. There's one for young adult fiction, one for adult fiction, and one list of great audio books that are read by the author. And please-- let me know if there are more good books in our collection that you think are better in the audio version.